This move may be a signal that it wasn’t selling well at $699, especially given that the only US carrier stores it’s available in have “Sprint” above the door. Another reason is that it now has to face the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL head-to-head.
Of course, that’s not how Essential sees it, saying that the price drop is there in lieu of “a massive TV campaign to capture your attention,” which is hard not to see as a wry Google and Apple dig. “We think making it easier for people to get their hands on our first products is a better way to get to know us,” the company’s blog post adds.
The Essential Phone went on sale just a few months ago, but the company believes that as a young startup just getting out therein a market where incumbents like Apple and Samsung basically take up all the available space, there’s a lot of value in word of mouth and perceived value. That’s why it’s making this price change, Essential tells me – though you have to also wonder whether the company’s not seeing the numbers it was hoping for in terms of initial sales, which is what some early third-party sales estimates have suggested.
Regardless of the reason, the price drop makes Essential arguably the best value smartphone on the market, and definitely the best Android device in that range. It’s common for Android phone prices to go down over time, but this is an aggressive price drop both in its timing and its amount. To help salve the burn that customers who paid the full price might be feeling, the company is offering a $200 Essential Store “friends & family code” to be used towards the purchase of another phone or a module. The only module available thus far, of course, is the 360 camera.
In the time since Essential released the phone, it has made good on its promise to release software updates to improve camera performance, though it’s neither as fast nor as good as what you’ll get on a Galaxy S8 or Pixel 2. Depending on how you feel about the camera’s importance, $499 is either a steal or the appropriate price for this phone.